Germany

Six arrested as German police foil stabbing rampage plot at Berlin half marathon

One suspect had links to Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, who carried out a deadly truck attack on a Christmas market in the German capital in December 2016

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 8:34am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 10:40pm

German authorities had been watching the suspected terrorists for weeks.

Tipped off by a foreign intelligence agency, they believed at least one of them had a link to Anis Amri, a Tunisian who barrelled a truck through a Berlin Christmas market in the last Islamic terrorist attack on German soil.

Police were watching one suspect’s movements around the clock.

On Sunday police said they arrested the man and five co-conspirators and foiled an alleged plot intended to inflict horror.

The arrested men had planned to wade through dense crowds of runners and spectators at the Berlin Half Marathon, using “specially sharpened knives” to slash at anyone in reach, a report by daily newspaper Die Welt said.

Police have not released the names of the men who have been detained or any information about the charges they face.

More than 36,000 people took part in the event, setting a new attendance record, according to the BBC.

The race was guarded by more than 630 police officers and went off undisturbed.

“In the run-up to the Berlin Half Marathon, there were isolated indications that the six detainees, between the ages of 18 and 21, may have been involved in the preparation of a crime in connection with this event,” the police department said,

Police said they were also on alert after a man ploughed a van into a crowd in the northern German city of Muenster on Saturday, killing two and injuring 20 others.

Investigators have not released a motive, but said the man was a “psychologically disturbed” German national, and that they don’t suspect a terror link.

The man had several run-ins with local police, including a time when he threatened his father with an axe.

In Berlin, police conducted raids before the race started, including a house that was searched after the Christmas market attack. In one of the homes, search dogs indicated the presence of explosives, although police haven’t released more details.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the government would do everything it can to protect citizens.

“We have again experienced that absolute security is unfortunately not possible,” he said.

Still, the German anti-terror apparatus has been bolstered in the last two years.

After Amri’s attack, German leaders called for tougher security measures. No major Islamist attack has been carried out in the country since then.

The Berlin Half Marathon has been held annually in Germany’s capital since the early 1980s, and now attracts tens of thousands of runners from around the world. Erick Kiptanui, of Kenya, won Sunday’s race in a course record 58 minutes, 42 seconds, equalling the fastest time in the world this year, race organisers said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press